My Left Foot
This is one of the most powerful movies imaginable. Part of its power is due to the fact that it is based on the autobiography of Christy Brown---this really happened. Part of its power is due to the fact that it demonstrates how easy it is to dismiss another human being because they are not like us---a problem that continually plagues each and every one of us. Part of its power is delivered by the quality of the acting. But, finally, the greatest part of its power is how it reveals what a human being is capable of achieving under even the most unimaginably difficult circumstances. The movie, therefore, stands as a challenge to us all to reach down into the depths of our minds and souls and utilize the wondrous capacities that we all possess.
The movie is directed by Jim Sheridan; written by Sheridan and Shane Connaughton, based on the autobiography of Christy Brown. Daniel Day-Lewis plays Christy as an adult, Brenda Fricker plays his mother.
Christy was born in 1932 with cerebral palsy. He was the 9th child of 22 that his parents would bring into the painfully poor working class world of Dublin, Ireland. His body was both twisted and paralyzed. He was unable to communicate through recognizable speech. With his lips pulled over to one side, his eyes wobbling upward in their sockets, he spoke in a series of guttural syllables that would be translated by his mother. Because he had the use of only his left foot, he was able to get around with difficulty, sometimes in a home-made wooden pramlike vehicle, pulled by his pals, and later in a wheelchair. People who had no idea they were being cruel referred to him within his hearing as an "idiot" and a "half-wit" when in reality he was much more intelligent than they.
Through the uninhibited, unselfconscious love of his family, and the patience of his doctors, Christy learned how to be understood when he talked and to express himself first as a painter and then as a writer. His mind was fertile, relentless, questing, and, it seems, surprisingly romantic.
With the more than ordinarily prehensile toes of his left foot, he could hold a paint brush, turn door knobs, type stories, play records, do almost everything, in fact, except cut his throat with a straight razor (tried once in a low moment).
Christy knows that he will always be different, but that doesn't prevent him from attempting to realize himself as completely as other men. How he does this, and at what cost, provides My Left Foot with its narrative shape. The film is a series of flashbacks from a gala benefit at which Christy is being honored and where he meets the young woman he will eventually marry.
The film, which came out in 1989, elects not to mention that Christy died in 1981, at the age of 49, nine years after he was married. He choked to death while having dinner.
(Much of the above is drawn from The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies.)
Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the world's finest actors. His other films include: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, A Room with a View, The Last of the Mohicans, The Age of Innocence, The Crucible, and In the Name of the Father.
Questions for you to try to answer:
· How can you improve upon your ability to not look down upon others who are different? Don't sermonize .be specific! Exactly what can you do and why do you think that will make a difference? Remember: Thoughts are tied to emotions which create our behavior.
· How can you improve upon your ability to utilize more of your heart, mind, and soul than you currently are utilizing?
Back to the syllabus